Two of the biggest issues facing the 49er heading into the 2013 preseason campaign were the wide receiver position and the cornerback position. We'll get into the cornerback competition later, but for now, I thought we could take a look at last night's wide receiver performances. There were some ups and downs, which means we do not have a whole lot of clarification.
The 49ers want to see what they have in Jenkins, and it was a bit of a disappointing performance. Jenkins made one catch, but proceeded to fumble the ball as he turned up field when a defender poked it out from behind. That being said, former scout John Middlekauff had some positive comments as he looked on from up in the press box:
I watched AJ Jenkins specifically the last 3 plays, he ran good routes, stemmed the DB on a post, was open deep... Playing fast IMO— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) August 9, 2013
While AJ Jenkins is playing w/ the 2's/3's - not good, he did just pancake a guy a corner on run: Playing hard, that will show up on film— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) August 9, 2013
So, there were some positives to take out of his performance, but as Harbaugh described it, "Could have been better." This wasn't a complete waste of a performance, but he needs to take more assertive steps to secure some kind of real playing time when the regular season gets here.
Anquan Boldin had two catches for 14 yards on the opening drive, including a nice sliding grab that got the 49ers a first down. It was a limited appearance for Boldin, but he looked sharp.
Marlon Moore had a catch of his own for 12 yards. Again, it was a limited appearance, but it was a nice catch. Given how much praise Moore has received during camp, I look forward to seeing him get more snaps in the preseason. I was kind of surprised he came out so quickly. Kyle Williams sat out the game, and there is no word yet on next week's matchup with the Chiefs, but I have to think he plays barring a setback. We'll see how the snaps are spread out then.
Kassim Osgood was the standout among the receivers, grabbing three passes for 34 yards. He caught all three from Scott Tolzien, and had another target from Colt McCoy. Osgood's most impressive performance came at the close of the first half. In the final 31 seconds, Tolzien completed four straight passes to move the 49ers into field goal range. Osgood caught two of them for 25 yards.
Where Osgood stepped up was on special teams. He made a couple strong tackles, and generally was all over the field. Osgood has been in the NFL since 2003, and has 44 career receptions. While I suppose the light could go on and he could become a threat, special teams is where he will make his impact.
Austin Collie made his return to the NFL, and had two receptions for 20 yards. His best catch was a quick pass up the middle, in which he gained 16 yards on the catch and run. It converted a 4th and 3, and was a great combination of pass and catch in serious traffic. That's where Collie has made his bones in the NFL, and that's the kind of role he will fill with the 49ers.
Chad Hall got quite a few snaps last night, and while I view him as a smaller, poor man's Austin Collie of sorts, he remains active when he's on the field. I don't think he makes the roster, but I'm curious to see how his snap count adjusts, particularly once Kyle Williams gets back on the field.
Ricardo Lockette made an appearance as well, drawing a pair of pass interference penalties that converted 3rd and long situations. I don't think we can draw a lot of conclusions from his wide receiver play, but his special teams play was impressive. He was involved in arguably the most impressive play of the night. Colton Schmidt drilled a punt deep, and return man Trindon Holliday decided it was a good idea to catch the ball and try and return it from his own 2. Lockette was the gunner on that side of the field, and his 4.34 speed got him down there in time to take down Holliday before he could take a step.
Chuck Jacobs got a lot of work late in the game, and finished with two catches for 27 yards. At this point, I'd imagine he is competing for a practice squad spot. He looked good on a wide receiver screen, but otherwise did not particularly stand out.
Lavelle Hawkins got seven snaps and had a drop that won't do him any favors. I was big on Hawkins coming out of college, but I would be pretty surprised to see him make the 49ers roster this year.
As it currently stands, if I had to project the 49ers wide receivers for Week 1, I'd probably go with Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton, Marlon Moore and Kassim Osgood. Strong special teams will continue to help Lockette, but I think for now the team is more likely to keep a veteran like Osgood. He and Moore provide solid special teams skills, and if Moore keeps impressing, he could work his way into some decent playing time with the offense.